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The Turkish opposition is repeating past mistakes

May 10, 2018 at 11:36 am

People wave the Turkish flag as leader of the main opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, delivers a speech in Istanbul, Turkey on 9 July 2017 [Onur Çoban/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish political parties have begun intensifying their election campaigns with the imminent, early presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place on 24 June. The campaigns have been divided into two camps: The People’s Alliance, formed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Nationalist Movement Party, and the Great Unity Party (BBP) and the Nation Alliance made up of four parties: the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Felicity Party (SP), the Iyi Party, and the Democrat Party (DP).

Holding the presidential and parliamentary elections at an earlier date has confused and upset the opposition parties’ calculations and plans. They lost days looking for a joint candidate for the presidential elections, but these efforts ended up in failure. The CHP was ultimately forced to nominate one of its MPs after its leader evaded nomination and competing against the People’s Alliance candidate, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the manifesto presented by Erdogan on Sunday in Istanbul, the AKP announced its views and pledges, reminding the people of the great achievements achieved by Turkey in various fields during his rule. They also drew attention to the dangers that faced the country and the challenges it will face in the upcoming stage. In other words, he told the voters that he would ensure the country’s security, safety and political and economic stability and would achieve further development and progress.

As for the opposition, it began to repeat the mistakes it has made in the past and is resorting to the same methods that failed miserably in previous elections. It seems that the opposition has not learned from its bitter experiences and did not learn any lessons from its repeated losses. Therefore, the results of these elections are not expected to be different from the results of past elections.

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The four opposition parties that make up the Nation Alliance are each suddenly acting as if they are new parties unknown to the Turkish public. The CHP candidate, Muharrem Ince went to Friday prayers at the famous Haci Bayram Mosque in the capital city of Ankara, while the SP leader and presidential elections candidate, Temel Karamollaoglu, is promoting revolutionary leftist slogans. However, it is almost impossible for such actions to change the voters’ minds shortly before the elections because the parties’ orientations and paths are well known and the community does not forget what each party has done and said since its inception.

The Nation Alliance’s parties are not offering voters a programme to achieve more development and prosperity. The only thing they are promising is to restore “old Turkey” full of coups and political and economic crises. This negative discourse that suggests destruction and taking steps backwards instead of forwards is what concerns voters looking for stability and pushes them away from the opposition alliance.

The opposition is telling voters that it will change the regime in Turkey from presidential to parliamentary, but that is not an easy matter. This is because the transition to the presidential system was approved by the Turkish people in the referendum and such a change would require a constitutional amendment. There is also the question of whether the CHP or any other opposition party could give up the privileges of the presidential system and governing the country if its candidate wins the election.

There is a problem hindering the Nation Alliance parties and that is the fact that they cannot promise to combat those aiming to stage coups or parallel state cells, nor can they fight terrorist organisations such as the PKK because the parallel state that staged the failed coup strongly supports the alliance. They see the alliance as a way to regain influence in the country. Moreover, the alliance needs the support of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the political branch of the PKK, and does not want to anger the supporters of this party.

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The biggest mistake made by the opposition is resorting to misguidance methods and trying to trick the public opinion by means of modern media and social networking sites. This is because victory or loss in democratic elections is determined by counting the votes that come out of the ballot boxes, not the tweets posted by dozens of false Twitter accounts.

The current electronic campaign launched now by the opposition against Erdogan serves the campaign of the People’s Alliance candidate because it gives the voters the idea that the parallel state and PKK are allied with the parties of the Nation Alliance. Moreover, the participation of foreigners from various Western countries in this campaign leads to stirring up patriotic feelings amongst the voters and tells the Turks that their country is being targeted by their enemies.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21, 9 May 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.